Hackers want to stay invisible – and they’re good at it. The methods they use to get their hands on organizations’ valuable data are more advanced than ever. Just keeping up with the latest malicious actors, cyber threat types, and vulnerabilities can be a major headache for IT teams.

Thankfully, threat intelligence offers a way to even things up. It offers cybersecurity teams a way to take vast amounts of security information and use it proactively to predict – and prevent – future threats. When combined with access security solutions such as Privileged Access Management (PAM) and Endpoint Privileged Management (EPM), businesses have a powerful cybersecurity tool in their corner.

What is threat intelligence – and why is it so valuable?

Threat intelligence uses data to prevent and mitigate cyberattacks. It’s all about proactive protection, rather than responding to incidents that have already happened. In a sometimes overwhelming sea of data, threat intelligence is all about pulling out the nuggets of valuable information. Otherwise, it can be hard to know what to prioritize and what to ignore.

Threat intelligence produces insights that we can split into three different categories:

  • Tactical intelligence: Technical in nature and focused on the immediate future. It gives a broad view of threats so they can be combated straight away. Tactical intelligence is automated, easy to generate, and can become obsolete quickly.
  • Operational intelligence: Key, as it provides the context of who is behind the attacks. Operational intelligence is more to do with the who, what, and why – and therefore needs some human input to make it usable. It tends to be useful for longer, as hackers’ motivations outlast their specific tools and types of malware.
  • Strategic intelligence: Takes higher-level factors such as geopolitics into account. Strategic intelligence requires detailed human analysis and an intimate understanding of both cybersecurity and current affairs. This is the hardest intelligence to generate and is used to inform high-level business decisions.

These three types of intelligence add security value to organizations of all sizes in various ways. IT security teams get to spend less time compiling security reports and analyzing data. Business leaders are provided with easy-to-understand insights that allow them to make fast, proactive decisions. They can also stay up to date with a huge volume of threats and resolve them faster – leading to a reduced risk of unplanned downtime and data breaches.

But how does it work…?

The volumes of data needed to form these insights are too large for a human to analyze. Even a small organization has more data than a team of people could ever work through. So, threat intelligence solutions use machine learning to automate data collection and processing. They take in large amounts of unstructured data from a variety of sources, then connect the dots to give meaningful intelligence on where a future attack may come from.

The process starts with collecting raw data on potential threats and vulnerabilities. This could come from internal network event logs and records of past incidents to any number of external sources. The machine-learning algorithm then sorts and organizes the data, filtering out false positives and negatives. Next, it analyzes the processed data to search for potential security threats and puts them into a format that’s easier to understand.

IT teams end up with context on where their system vulnerabilities may lie, as well as who’s trying to attack them and what their motivations are. Threat intelligence identifies specific indicators of compromise (IOCs) and recommends the appropriate steps to prevent the attack. Common IOCs include:

  • Email addresses, subject lines, links, and attachments associated with phishing attempts
  • IP addresses, URLs, and domain names associated with malware
  • Registry keys, filenames, file hashes, and DLLs associated with attacks from a flagged external host

Threat intelligence in action

It’s possible to integrate threat intelligence with existing security solutions to put the information to work to prevent breaches and mitigate risk. Some of the biggest risks to organizational security are linked to privileged accounts – users with elevated privileges to access sensitive resources, modify critical assets, and work with data in corporate applications. Defending against these kinds of threats via access security and management solutions is step one in implementing threat intelligence procedures.

The misuse of privileged accounts poses one of the biggest cybersecurity risks to organizations, so it makes sense for PAM to play a key role in threat intelligence. If a malicious actor is identified through threat intelligence, the user’s rights and permissions can be easily and swiftly revoked to avoid any problems. Their actions may even be blocked automatically by session monitoring designed to spot and terminate suspicious activity without the IT team’s real-time involvement.

Threat intelligence and access management should inform each other in a team process, where people use threat intelligence to align access security policies with perceived threats. By analyzing data on the use of privileged accounts through machine learning, a baseline of normal use can be established. This can then be used to detect behavioral anomalies that could signal in-progress attacks.

A winning team: Access Security & Threat Intelligence

Privilege management solutions such as the WALLIX Bastion and WALLIX BestSafe enable threat intelligence by centralizing privileged access and eliminating over-privileged user accounts. Privileged Access Management can enforce a single point of entry and give real-time analysis of command lines or applications executed by internal users or third parties – and then enforce threat control by sending alerts and shutting down sessions with identified inappropriate behavior.

Endpoint Privilege Management enables IT teams to remove local admin rights from endpoints including equipment terminals and employee workstations, to stop malware and cyberthreats from infecting the network, without hampering user efficiency.

When working in tandem, access security solutions and threat intelligence make a powerful cybersecurity team. They offer businesses the chance to pull intelligent insights from unstructured data, then protect themselves from these threats in real-time.